Northeast Ohio paramedics are still experiencing drug shortages after Hurricane Irma

Posted at 10:26 AM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 10:26:57-04

Fire stations across northeast Ohio are experiencing a shortage of medications they use while responding to emergencies, causing them to use different drugs. The shortage is one of the lasting impacts of last summer's Hurricane Irma.

Lately, when firefighters race to a call their drug supply isn't what it used to be.

"A lot of medications that we get locally are imported from Puerto Rico," said Parma Fire Department Spokesman T.J. Martin. 

"When the hurricane hit last year, it put everybody back, so now the supplies are trying to catch up," he said.

Some drugs have alternatives, but they're not always as effective. Others have different packaging from what first responders are trained to look for when they're working in an emergency.

"It takes us longer because now in addition to being able to give just one medication, now we have to mix multiple medications," said Martin. "Now we figure out our supplies have to be doubled at the hospitals, which carries more storage space necessities in the ambulances."

Martin says the shortage forced the department to make multiple contingency plans on a daily basis.

"We always have a Plan B, C and D, that's our job," said Martin. "If a plan doesn't work, we switch over automatically to Plan B. If that doesn't work, we move on to C and D."

While forcing departments to adapt quickly, the goal is to make sure the drug shortages have minimal impact on patient care.

"Care is 100%," said Martin. "Whatever we have to do, we will make sure the patients are taking care of."

Fire officials in Parma tell us their biggest shortage is in medicine used to treat diabetes and certain narcotics. They say they've made plans well in advance of the shortage to make sure patients get the care they need.